The People & Skills You Need Beyond Legal Expertise

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The People & Skills You Need Beyond Legal Expertise

Legal expertise at a law firm – of course, it is essential when starting a law firm that your people have this, whether you are recruiting from scratch as you grow your practice or take over a firm.

However, there are other qualities and skills you need your people to have. They will not only have to deal with the cases and engagements, but they also have to engage well with the clients and increasingly with seniority, potential referrers, prospective clients and other business contacts. This does not always come naturally to those with a legal mind but can be worked on and developed. In small firms, in particular, it is even more valuable to have people with a broader range of skills.

As a starting point, three characteristics to look for in people you are recruiting or considering promoting if you have ‘inherited’ them are those who:

  • Are flexible and keen to get involved in different areas of the practice beyond their professional expertise, such as business development and marketing.
  • Are willing to learn about areas outside of their core legal expertise.
  • Have an interest in people, so they are not just focused on the substance of the matters they deal with but on why it is so important to the client that it be resolved.

Recent research by Clare Fanner, who runs Find Get Grow Ltd, looked at what clients want, need and expect from a law firm. For many practices, it may be surprising reading and is well worth requesting and downloading. It supports what I would say are key skills you need your people to have:

1. Ability to engage well with clients. In the research, ‘understanding of issues’ was the top client priority. This isn’t so odd when you think about it; clients seeking a lawyer usually have an issue that involves emotions, whether that be the excitement of setting up a new business or the sadness/anger that is likely to be related to divorce. Therefore, you need lawyers who will make the clients feel heard, understood, and reassured they will do their best to resolve the issue successfully.

2. Solid communicators who keep clients up-to-date so they don’t have to chase and trust that they will be informed if they need to know something. Three key stats in the research were related to this skill: 84% of clients have a strong expectation that they will have the direct contact details of their lawyer, 79% expect at least weekly updates on their matter and 69% expect a same-day response to their queries.

3. Willingness to contribute to business development. It doesn’t have to be complex. Clare Fanner’s research showed that 44% of clients have not heard from their law firm since the conclusion of their matter, and only 17% of clients have heard from their law firm with information to help them understand how market factors such as Covid and Brexit might affect them. Why miss such easy opportunities? Staying top of a happy client’s mind is the easiest way to win more work, either from that client directly or as a referral. It really doesn’t take much effort to have some simple diary reminders and stay in touch. It does need a lawyer to believe in and be interested in business development, though.

I hope this helps you think about the type of people you need to recruit and the development you need to offer to help your lawyers be more than excellent lawyers and support the building and growth of your practice.


Author: Joanna Gaudoin, Inside Out Image


Inside Out Image is focused on helping Professional & Financial Services firms to develop and maintain strong business relationships with their clients, network, and colleagues to always stand out and outperform their competitors. They will help ensure that your people come across positively in every professional scenario, representing themselves and their organisations well internally and externally.

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